This photo of Angelina Jolie may give you nightmares, but it's meant to inspire the opposite.
As is very clear in a stunning newly released portrait of the Oscar winner, the 45-year-old mom of six posed for National Geographic in honor of World Bee Day on Thursday, May 20. Bringing awareness to both bee conservation efforts and the organization Women for Bees—for which she serves as godmother—the actress had notable co-stars for her photo shoot, conducted by Dan Winters. The photographer drew inspiration from Richard Avedon's 1981 portrait of beekeeper Ronald Fischer, who sat shirtless and covered with bees for the famed picture.
Four decades later, Jolie used the same pheromone Avedon used to attracted the flying insects. "It was so funny to be in hair and makeup and wiping yourself with pheromone," Jolie said in National Geographic's exclusive World Bee Day interview. "We couldn't shower for three days before. Because they told me, 'If you hve all these different scents, shampoos and perfumes and things, the bee doesn't know what you are.' [They] don't want [bees] to confuse you for a flower, I suppose."
While Jolie put items in her nose and ears to keep the bees from climbing in, one managed to find another worrisome area. "I did have one that got under my dress the entire time. It was like one of those old comedies. I kept feeling it on my knee, on my leg, and then I thought, 'Oh, this is the worst place to get stung. It's getting really close,'" she described. "It stayed there the entire time we were doing the shoot. And then when I got all the other bees off, I lifted the skirt and he went away."
Of course, the portrait is meant to celebrate one of nature's most important pollinators, not scare us away from them. "I'm going to sound like my Buddhist practices, but it just felt lovely to be connected to these beautiful creatures," Jolie said. "There's certainly a hum. You have to be really still and in your body, in the moment, which is not easy for me. I think part of the thought behind it was, this creature is seen as dangerous sometimes or stinging. So how do we just be with it? The intention is we share this planet. We are affected by each other. This is what it should feel like and it really did, and I felt very honored and very lucky to have the experience."
In June, she'll be heading to Provence to train in beekeeping, joining the first 10 women to take part in the Women for Bees program. The initiative, founded by UNESCO and Guerlain, is aimed at ultimately training 50 women from five biosphere reserves to become beekeeper entrepreneurs.
"Women are so capable. And there are many women in areas that have not had opportunities," Jolie explained. "But they are hungry to learn, they have great business instincts. To have a network, learning how to be the best beekeepers with all the latest science and methods, and having something they can make and sell. It's not just about going around teaching women, it's about learning from women all around the world who have different practices."
As she noted, "When a woman learns a skill, she teaches other women and other men and her children. And so if you really want something done and you want it magnified, you find a woman and you help her understand what the problem is and she will work very hard to make sure everyone in the community knows.
In honor of World Bee Day, read more of Jolie's interview on bee conservation here.